Monday, December 6, 2010

Calling Paul Bunyan

Naturally, it didn’t work as advertised.

What I thought would be a relatively simple chore of mulching leaves for Gilda’s compost pile turned out to be anything but. I made some progress but the machine turned fickle on me—after two hours, instead of vacuuming, it wound up blowing leaves.

Every so often I fancy myself as an outdoorsman. In my youthful days as a homeowner, I succumbed to envy and embarked on a wood-burning stove regimen like my neighbor Peter. It required a chain saw (and the mental felicity and physical dexterity not to maim or dismember myself). I’d ride around with the chain saw in the back of my ‘73 Vega hatchback, looking more at the side of the road for downed tree limbs than at the traffic around me. I’d pull over to the shoulder, whip out the chain saw and pile the cuttings into the back of the Vega. Back home I’d chop the haul into usable pieces for our wood-burning stove.

That was more than 20 years ago. The chain saw has long since been discarded. Now I confine my Paul Bunyan moments to the occasional manual trimming of a low-hanging limb. I leave the yard work to the gardeners and to Gilda. Reluctantly, I help out by retrieving free mulch and compost from the town public works site for her vegetable and flower garden.

Ever the gardening entrepreneur, Gilda recently decided she wanted to make her own compost from our harvest of fall leaves. She had me build a 3’x4’ netted area on our side yard for numerous garbage can loads of leaves. Our son Dan brought down his blower/mulcher a few weeks ago, but she didn’t think it had enough power. My brother offered his no longer used Black & Decker Vac ’n’ Mulch Blower/Vac which he assured us was more powerful. This past weekend I liberated it from his garage and brought it home. Ever the compliant husband (ed note: to be read sarcastically), I volunteered to mulch away Monday morning, not realizing it would be c-o-l-d outside with the season’s first snow flurries.

It took about 15 minutes to set the machine up properly. The vacuum tube in front of the mulching blade repeatedly got clogged, requiring me to stop and start again and again. The exhaust hose kept falling off the housing. I had to tape it down. The final straw was the machine’s inexplicable desire to be a blower, not a vacuum/mulcher. I gave up, at least for today.

Perhaps tomorrow I’ll try again.